Mike Carlton has resigned as a columnist for Fairfax over his use of offensive language towards readers complaining about his recent column about the war in Gaza.
Fairfax’s head of business media Sean Aylmer confirmed Mr Carlton’s resignation to 2UE on Wednesday morning, saying there was no problem with his editorial column from July 26 on the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Mr Aylmer said the problem was the way Mr Carlton treated readers after they contacted him with issues about both the column and accompanying cartoon.
“The column was fine. The issue wasn’t the printing of the column,” he said.
“What sort of got him into trouble was the way he responded to those readers, and it was totally inappropriate, using very inappropriate language.”
Confirming I have quit the SMH, sad that a once great newspaper has buckled to the bullies. Thanks for your support…maintain the rage.
— Mike Carlton (@MikeCarlton01) August 5, 2014
Mr Aylmer said the Sydney Morning Herald’s editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir rang Mr Carlton on Tuesday and demanded he apologise for the comments, which reportedly included telling several critics to “f*** off” and calling one a “Jewish bigot”.
That night he resigned on the spot after Mr Aylmer and Mr Goodsir said they would suspend him.
“He was apologetic. He accepted he had gone too far,” Mr Aylmer said.
“As more emails emerged we kind of figured we needed to suspend him because we certainly want to put the readers first and no one has the right to treat people that way.”
On Tuesday, Mr Goodsir himself apologised for the offensive language used by Mr Carlton in correspondence with readers, calling his behaviour “completely unacceptable”.
It came the day after the newspaper also apologised for the column’s cartoon, which sparked criticism and accusations of racism.
The cartoon, by Glen Le Lievre, depicted an elderly man sitting in an armchair on a hilltop overlooking Gaza, and pointing a remote control towards where an explosion had just occurred below.
The man was drawn with a large nose, was wearing a kippah – a Jewish religious skullcap – and had a Star of David on the back of his chair.
Under the headline, “We apologise: publishing cartoon in original form was wrong”, the SMH said a “strong view” had been expressed in letters to the paper and public commentary that the cartoon “resembled illustrations that had circulated in Nazi Germany”.
Acknowledging “widespread reader and community reaction”, the SMH said it deeply regretted the upset the image had caused.
However, it felt that no racial vilification had occurred.